Walk 191 – Fairlie Glens and Waterfalls Circular – 4.3 miles

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On a clear day the views from this route are simply outstanding: the islands of Cumbrae & Arran and the pink sandy beaches at Fairlie and Hunterston. A variety of woodland paths, tracks and grassy hillsides lead you gently uphill past the remains of Fairlie Castle and along the base of Black Hill. The return section follows the Fairlie Moor Road and then the Ayrshire Coastal Path. There is the opportunity to visit some fantastic hidden waterfalls along the route if you don’t mind some rougher terrain for a few minutes!

Dog-friendly walk (note: livestock possible on the path along the base of Black Hill and on-road walking for the second half of the walk – you’ll know whether this suits your own dog or not)

Walk starts from Fairlie Train Station (KA29 0DX) where there is a small car park. Regular trains between Fairlie and Glasgow / the Three Towns. Bus stop on Main Road/A78, a couple of minutes walk from the start.

Route: From Fairlie Rail Station follow a lane heading North between the last house on Station Road and some trees. After only 80m it emerges onto Burnfoot Road where you turn right (East) to follow a path signposted “Fairlie Castle, Glen & Waterall, Kaim Hill”. From here a woodland path follows Fairlie Burn uphill to the remains of Fairlie Castle. The first waterfall can be found by veering off the path immediately behind the castle. You can pick up a faint trail in the trees heading towards the burn and if you follow it upstream a little across rougher ground, you will reap your reward. The waterfall tumbles down beneath a giant stone slab – this is the footbridge you will soon cross to continue the walk. Return to the main path behind the castle. Turn right (East) and approx 40m along you will see the footbridge on your right. You can either cross now, or follow the route to another stunning waterfall a little further along the path (some scrambling is required to reach it). If you feel up to it then leave the bridge for now and continue along the main path for approx 200m. Look out for a wooden sign that says ‘Waterfall’ on your right at one of the bends in the path. Follow the trail into the trees and up a muddy banking. You will hear the noise of the waterfall before you see it! Enjoy, then retrace your steps back to the footbridge. Cross the footbridge, go through the kissing gate and you will emerge onto a meadow. Cross the meadow diagonally uphill (South East) to go through a gate in the wall. There are 2 paths from here (only one shown on the map) – take the lower path which runs parallel to the wall heading South. On a clear day the views from here are spectacular! Traverse the hillside for approx 220m, gradually gaining height to emerge at a gated entrance to the woods. Immediately on entering the woods there is a small ford to cross then the path continues through the trees for 640m to a gate leading onto a field. Follow a faint path left (SE) across the field towards the corner of two dry stone walls at the base of Black Hill. Pass through the gates then turn right (S) to follow the (sometimes muddy) track along the base of Black Hill. After 1.5km this emerges onto the Fairlie Moor Road. The continuation of the route is to the right, but for a short and very worthwhile detour to another waterfall turn left (E) along the road for 90m. Just beyond the bend in the road, look for a faint footpath on the right (not signposted). The waterfall is located at the end of this path on Glen Burn – you can actually walk in behind it if there is not too much water at the time of your visit! Retrace your steps to the Fairlie Moor Road, turn left (West) and follow it downhill for 1.5km to meet with A78/Irvine Road. Take care crossing over then turn right (North) onto the NCN 757 / Ayrshire Coastal Path route. Continue along the cycle path for 1.3km to reach Fairlie. Take the second road on your right (East) onto Montgomerie Avenue and at the end of the street turn left (North) onto Montgomerie Drive. Station Road is at the end of this street. Turn right (East) on Station Road to reach Fairlie Rail Station.

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This is a route which I planned with EnRich Outdoors for the Clyde Muirshiel Walking Festival. I had opted to lead one closer to home than the previous year’s Four Waters to Corlic Hill route, mainly to cut back on travel time. Fairlie wasn’t an area I knew that well, so I had some exploring to do before we could promote the walk on the festival programme! We recce’d the route on a glorious sunny day in May and were rewarded with the most magnificent views across to the Cumbraes and the Isle of Arran. I couldn’t believe the turquoise of the water or the pink sands of Fairlie and Hunterston beaches – it felt like we were on one of the western isles or abroad. Unfortunately when we led the walk for the walking festival the weather wasn’t quite so kind!

The waterfalls were actually a surprise to me! Although appearing hidden, it turned out that the first one was not really, as we later crossed over the top of it on a footbridge. Still, it is much nicer to see from below than from above! The second waterfall we only ‘found’ thanks to an old wooden way marker just off the path which simply said “waterfall”. Of course we were intrigued so followed the path. There were some fallen trees to negotiate and a little bit of scrambling – and all of a sudden out of nowhere there it was! There wasn’t a lot of water in it during our visit, granted, but enough to make an impression. Imagine it when the burn is in spate! The third and final waterfall was one the EnRich Outdoors team had visited before but was a first for me. Again, it wasn’t far off the main path (not signposted this time though!) and it was another “wow” moment as I approached. This one reminded me of the Yad Waterfall in Maspie Den, Fife because you could actually walk in behind it. I guess you probably can’t always do that, however the water levels were low enough when we were there that it was easily done.

We chose a really colourful time of year to do the walk: the hawthorn trees were in full bloom and bluebells carpeted the woodland floors. There was also coconut-scented gorse along the base of Black Hill, and Fairle Moor Road was lined with irises. We saw lots of hairy caterpillars, found the empty shell of a bird’s egg and an abandoned wasps nest! I can definitely recommend doing this walk in May, though I am sure it is a pleasure most times of the year and especially after heavy rainfall when the waterfalls will be all the more spectacular (and the path all the more boggy!)

Other walks nearby you might enjoy:

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